Jon Simmons is nervous.
The Balance and Composure frontman is “very nervous,” to be exact. But he’s also excited – excited to get some new music out there, excited for the release of his band’s most unique, compelling and honest record yet. When we spoke, there was still two weeks until The Things We Think We’re Missing droped, and he’d just recorded a Key Studio Session with guitarist Andy Slaymaker in WXPN’s studio. He knew the first acoustic showcase of a few of the new record’s tracks went well, but Simmons exudes honest humility in his laid-back attitude and admittance to running out of vocal steam.
Simmons is honest but wary – unknowing at the time and seemingly unbelieving that, despite any shortcomings, he’s helped make what’s being called one of the best record of the year in certain circles.
“I know not everyone is going to like this one,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s different, so it’s just a little scary. … I just feel like it’s a different vibe, so some people might not jive with it. Some people might love it, we’ll see. It’s just nerve wracking, putting yourself out there.”
When The Things We Think We’re Missing was released Tuesday, it became apparent that both new and veteran fans of Balance were latching on to this new record because of its differences. Not only does TTWTWM feature more structured songwriting and more detail-oriented recording techniques than the band’s previous releases, it caters to a broader audience than just straight punk and hardcore lovers.
“We definitely didn’t have any specific influences with this record,” Simmons says. “Usually were like, ‘Lets make a record that sounds like A → B Life by mewithoutYou or something,’ and with this one we didn’t even have that discussion. We were just like, ‘Let’s make an awesome rock record.’”
Ninety percent of TTWTWM was written within the two weeks that the band spent in a Pocono cabin, admittedly pulling a Bon Iver move in order to push away all distractions in favor of making music. This process differed from the way they wrote their debut album Separation, when each respective band member would come home from a long day at work and have to force their creativity, Simmons says.
“We were in the cabin and we had all day to just think of new stuff. It was mainly that, like that’s your only goal, that’s why we were in the cabin. So that’s all we focused on, and it wasn’t forced. It was more like a natural thing,” he says.
“We brought ideas, but everything was pretty much pieced together there,” adds Slaymaker.
Each day, they would send iPhone recordings of the songs to producer Will Yip, who would take notes and began to build a plan for the studio. Yip even went to see the band on one of their last few days in the cabin, starting the pre-production process much earlier, and on a more intimate level, than he usually does with other bands.
“With every record, I really want to be a part of it from the ground up, from the inception of the songs,” Yip says. “We went spent hours going through just my notes because basically, they had their songs to that point, and we just used my notes to take it to the next point. It was very important. I’m glad it happened because it gave birth to so many structural songs.
“I think we both realized then and there that we were going to kill it on this record together because we kind of saw eye-to-eye on all of the ideas.”
Balance and Yip made those ideas come to life by going above and beyond in the studio. After several more editing stages, they also left no stone unturned when it came to recording techniques.
“We just tried to give ingredients that touched the soul a little faster, and that were just really musical,” Yip says. “We wanted all of the guitars to be really roomy, and really kind of in your face. We spent a week on just these guitars where we did big room tracks, and nothing but room mics with Eric [Petersen] playing in a room, and it was just so special. You don’t hear all those parts, they’re not so forward, but they’re embedded in the mix, and it makes the mix glue together. … We have a lot of really special layers that make the record special and unique.”
Starting today, Balance and Composure will focus on bringing their new record to a live audience, first through a month-long stint with Title Fight (including a show at Union Transfer on Oct. 12), then by supporting Coheed and Cambria on their tour through November.
“I love going on tour. That’s my favorite part about being in the band, “ Simmons says. “It’s fun to see the world and play shows every night. I kind of lose it when I’m home. I just get bored of the normal routine. … [Opening for] Coheed, though, is going to be a little scary because they have really cult-like fans. I feel like they’re going to be hard to crack. So we might get booed off stage, but it’s an opportunity to play in front of a new crowd.”
Jon Simmons and his simultaneous pessimism and optimism – his own personal brand of balance and composure.
The Things We Think We’re Missing is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the single “Tiny Raindrop” in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review watch an acoustic performance of “Reflection” in yesterday’s post and check back later this week for an interview and more.